The fine balance of power will make legislative life difficult for the new man

Congress
Click to follow

Democrats had high hopes of capturing one, or both, Houses of Congress. But despite some spectacular victories, and a record number of women elected to national office, their hopes were mostly frustrated.

Democrats had high hopes of capturing one, or both, Houses of Congress. But despite some spectacular victories, and a record number of women elected to national office, their hopes were mostly frustrated.

Control of the House remained with Republicans, albeit with a more slender majority, and the Senate was balanced 50-49 in favour of the Republicans, with one seat - in Washington State - still to report after a recount. In its exceptional closeness, the battle mirrored the presidential race.

A jubilant Hillary Clinton made history as the first First Lady to be elected to public office, defeating Rick Lazio more easily than forecast. Mrs Clinton inherits the New York seat held by the veteran intellectual Daniel Pat Moynihan.

The most bizarre race was between the incumbent Republican and the dead governor of Missouri. The dead man, Mel Carnahan, won. His widow will take the seat under an agreement which may be challenged for its constitutionality. Jean Carnahan has never run for elected office, but showed herself to be politically attuned after her husband's died in a plane crash three weeks ago.

In the battleground state of Michigan, former House Representative Debbie Stabenow, beat the incumbent Spencer Abraham in a tough race for which she had campaigned primarily on prescription costs.

In Delaware, the state Governor, Tom Carper, a Democrat, beat his opponent, the 79-year-old incumbent Senator William Roth who collapsed twice during the campaign.

As in 1998, the impeachment of President Clinton proved a liability for Republicans, with two members of the House impeachment effort losing. Bill McCollum in Florida failed in his bid for the Senate, defeated by the popular insurance commissioner Bill Nelson. In California, Jim Rogan lost to Democrat Adam Schiff.

Although Democrats made net gains in both Houses, George Allen, a Republican former governor of Virginia, beat Senator Chuck Robb and Republicans also took seats in New York, Missouri, Virginia and Michigan. Several vulnerable Republicans survived, including Anne Northup, a Kentucky House Representative whose opponent had the benefit of a campaign rally addressed by President Clinton.

The fine balance in the 435-member House will make passing legislation more difficult for the next President than it isfor Mr Clinton. Were the Senate to be balanced 50-50, the casting vote afforded to the Vice-President could assume almost day to day importance.

But if Joe Lieberman became Vice-President, he would have to relinquish his Senate seat. The Republican Governor of Connecticut would appoint an interim Senator, no doubt a Republican, to replace him. Hewould then have the casting vote, but the Republicans would recoup their majority, giving him fewer occasions to use it.

Comments